Ayn Rand: The Fountainhead
“Man cannot survive except through his mind. He comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. Animals obtain food by force. Man has no claws, no fangs, no horns, no great strength of muscle. He must plant his food or hunt it. To plant, he needs a process of thought. To hunt, he needs weapons, and to make weapons—a process of thinking. From this simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from a single attribute of man—the function of his reasoning mind.
“His vision, his strength, his courage came from his own spirit. A man’s spirit, however, is his self. That entity which is his consciousness. To think, to feel, to judge, to act are functions of the ego.
Some books are great. Some are greater than others. And some books can outreach the greatest of all books. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand is one of them.
Each time I think this is the best book ever, I stumble into the best. It is hard to grasp my thoughts after finishing over 30 hours of the over 700 pages novel. I was taken throughout the journey of this reading with many ideas.
Somehow, the start was not that of the best, as I came into the name of Ayn Rand while I was searching for Ayelet Shaked. I was doing what one would call “know your enemy.” Each time I built admiration for the writer and her piece of genius, I reminded myself of Ayelet Shaked, the rightist extremist Israeli lawmaker and current minister of Interior. When I finished the novel, I was trying to read what was written on it, and I came into this comment in one of the articles in responding to a quote of Rand that said:
“Let’s suppose they were all beautifully innocent savages, which they certainly were not,” Rand persisted. “What was it that they were fighting for if they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their right to keep part of the earth untouched, unused, and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal?” she asked.
“Any white person who brings the elements of civilization had the right to take over this continent,” Rand said, “and it is great that some people did, and discovered here what they couldn’t do anywhere else in the world and what the Indians if there are any racist Indians today, do not believe to this day: respect for individual rights.”
“This blatantly racist quote illustrates quite nicely why I think Ayn Rand is one of the most repulsive people ever to masquerade as a “philosopher,” and her pseudo-“philosophy” is one of the most insidiously dangerous things ever to enter the bloodstream of our nation. The Virtue of Selfishness, my ass. The followers of her “philosophy” are doing a great job of destroying our democracy, our constitution, and the very fabric of our nation itself in their me-oriented pursuit of personal aggrandizement and wealth. The Orange Narcissist occupying the Oval Office is the true representation of the phony “heroes” portrayed in Rand’s comic-book level tomes.
She was racist, virulently anti-environment and anti-nature; and proto-fascist, no matter how she tried to dress up her fake “libertarian” philosophy. The result of the ubermensch-style anarchy she endorsed is always the same: fascist dictatorship, the destruction of democracy and rule by the plutocrats.”
If this explains why Ayn Rand would inspire someone like Shaked, then this statement has it all.
I had to take this out of my system, as it distracted me from my own emotions of this fantastic read. So, this side of Rand’s inspired people like Shaked as much as Nietzsche’s writings inspired Hitler.
As much as Ibn Taymiyya’s work inspired Wahhabi’s radicalism.
Going back to the novel…
I was in the middle of the reading when it occurred that this novel can demonstrate Goethe’s Faust. I felt fulfillment when I heard the word Faust in the book towards the last part, when Ellsworth Toohey, a character that embodies the evilness of humankind: corruption of souls in a preacher’s disguise of modesty and intellectuality and altruism, forces Peter Keating a mediocre, weak character, a sold soul, who obtains a success that was never his. The story of Faust. The eternal story of the man who sold his soul to the devil. I also remembered Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. I list great novels on the level of the devil who never stops the attempts to take man’s soul. There was the Al Pacino, and Keanu Reeves is the Devil’s Advocate. There were many instances of relevant resemblances. But there was more to the novel than the main plot of man’s greed and devil’s success in buying souls. There was the story of a human being who knew the meaning of the virtue of his being human. A human creator versus a human second-hander, and in between is the devil and his second, third, and infinity handers.
The plot is a masterpiece with every single word. Pause. Gesture. Description. Every single image draws itself in the imagination of the reader. People and places. Beauty and ugliness. A novel is so much of a masterpiece it leaves nothing for imagination except a step on a horizon of new fantasy. A work that speaks out for a creative thinker that does not need to prove superiority, who drives her creative vision independent of others’ needs or opinions.
An attempt to bring in all the power of one’s willingness to feel free to be his own master of his head. Of his own body. Of his soul.
Power, the only power in being true to oneself. That is the only power that lasts. The only power that survives all. The only power that stays is the robust power disguised in vanity, success, money, power. Power of money. Power of academia. Power of preaching.
Power of one’s own to be one’s true self. True to oneself is the ultimate power of all.
Whether Rand was a sloppy philosopher embracing Relativity in an existential sense or had no clue what philosophy is, it does not matter. It is messy to question the power of her words in writings and not see and nourish philosophy from it.
As I was reading, it occurred to me that if I ever would go to teaching… philosophy, this novel I would make as a prerequisite reading .it is that challenge of being able to think for one’s own. To create one’s ideas and to declare them as the constitution of his virtue. To be able to be oneself. Not other.
How hard it is to be one’s self. One’s reflection. One’s ideas. One’s creation?
As Howard Roark stands before the court, he delivers all that is there for a philosophy of one great Ayn Rand. It does not matter who adopts it of evil or of good. Words that stand for what it takes to be a human, not just a mere creature. But a creator.
Somehow as I thought of Roark’s words. The whole setup of the courtroom, Keating, the judges, the jury, and the audience. I remembered a personal encounter in a courtroom when I stood in a distant memory that I avoided thinking of. On that occasion, I found myself standing in front of three supreme court judges, not as a lawyer. A dream I have forgotten its resemblance myself long before. But as a witness before an accusation against a cheating husband for a crime, my children and I were going to pay for it—the only innocents of that setup. A memory of that day came back to mind when I stood before the judges, not remembering a word of what I said. Only the power I held in every emotion and in every word I uttered. A memory of tears in the judges’ eyes. A memory of clapping in the distant hall. A memory of a lawyer telling my ex-husband: you will owe this woman your life if you ever get out of this. A memory of a white, bloodless-faced husband nodding in praying eyes, wishing that he would get out of that place to home, not jail. A memory of a robust existence I realized I was carrying inside me. A memory of the power of being virtuous. A stupid honest woman, mother, bereaved with a treacherous spouse.
Of course, I was not that architect who brought a building he designed to fire. I was a mother protecting her family from a scandal she could not afford to allow her children to live. I was a victim, but I was not allowing victimhood to be my plea. I was sacrificing undoubtedly my life. But I knew that the life of my children were lives I was responsible for. It wasn’t about sacrifice. It was about my children, whom I wanted for them, a deserving meaningful worthful life.
“The creators were not selfless. It is the whole secret of their power—that it was self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated. A first cause, a fount of energy, a life force, a Prime Mover. The creator served nothing and no one. He lived for himself.
“And only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement.
“I came here to say that I do not recognize anyone’s right to one minute of my life. Nor to any part of my energy. Nor to any achievement of mine. No matter who makes the claim, how large their number or how great their need.
“I wished to come here and say that I am a man who does not exist for others.
“It had to be said. The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing.
“I wished to come here and say that the integrity of a man’s creative work is of greater importance than any charitable endeavor. Those of you who do not understand this are the men who’re destroying the world.
“I recognize no obligations toward men except one: to respect their freedom and to take no part in a slave society. To my country, I wish to give the ten years which I will spend in jail if my country exists no longer. I will spend them in memory and in gratitude for what my country has been. It will be my act of loyalty, my refusal to live or work in what has taken its place.